Work Permits for South Africa

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Expats will need a work permit for South Africa if they want to take up employment there. But getting one isn’t always a consistent process and the sense of disarray has been intensified by the recent introduction of new immigration laws. 
Under the new regulations, work permits are now officially known as work visas and allow the bearer to enter, stay and work in the country. 
The main consideration for work visas is still that a South African citizen must not be qualified to perform the task in question at the same capacity as the applicant.
The documentation required to prove this is a grey area that partially depends on the personal discretion of officials. In this way, patience and persistence are highly advised for expats who don't have an employer organising their permit for them.
Visa applications for South Africa are now initially processed by VFS Global, while the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is responsible for assessing and approving of applications.
There are several visas for expats wanting to work in South Africa, including the general work visa, critical skills visa and the intra-company transfer.
Either way, the first time expats apply for a visa it has to be at a South African mission outside of the country – it isn’t possible to change from a visit to a work visa after arriving anymore.

General work visas for South Africa

Regardless of the type of work visa, prospective employers have to prove that they were unable to find a South African citizen or permanent resident for the expat’s position.
Linked to this, expat employees have to provide proof that they have the necessary qualifications or skills needed for the job. Their qualifications are evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and, if necessary, translated into one of South Africa’s official languages by a sworn translator.
Expat employees are also not allowed to earn less than the average salary and benefits earned by citizens and permanent residents in similar positions.
General Work Visas are issued for a maximum of five years, but the process to get one takes longer under the new law because applications are forwarded to the Department of Labour.  

Critical skills visas for South Africa

The South African Critical Skills Visa enables foreigners working within certain fields to enter the country regardless of whether they have an employment offer.
The visa replaces the Exceptional Skills Permit and Quota Work Permit but applicants will only qualify for it if their occupation is on the South African skills shortage list.
As is the case with general work visas, critical skills visas can only be issued for five years or less. The main sectors identified by the critical skills list include agriculture, architecture, specialised financial jobs, information and communications technology, science and the medical field.
One benefit of the critical skills visa is that the holder’s spouse and dependent children will each be provided with an appropriate visa valid for the same period as the main holder’s visa.

Intra-company visas for South Africa

International businesses often use these kinds of visas for transferring personnel between branches in different countries. However, only employees who have been at the applying company for six months or more will be considered. The intra-company visa can be eligible for up to four years.

Documents required for work visas in South Africa

While each individual case and visa type will have its own requirements, there are a few primary documents required for any application. These include:
  • Passport photographs
  • Passport valid for 30 days or more after the date of intended departure from South Africa
  • Medical report and chest x-rays
  • Full birth certificate
  • Police clearance certificates
  • Completed application forms

Expats wanting to legally work in South Africa will also likely have to provide supporting documentation. This may varies but can include:
  • Letter of motivation from the employer as to why a South African couldn't fill the position, accompanied by documentary proof of efforts made to obtain the services of a citizen or resident
  • Proof of qualifications evaluated by the South African Qualification Authority
  • Proof of registration with professional body, board or council, if applicable
  • Proof of experience and skills in line with the job offer